Kwema is excited to introduce to our readers a new section of the blog, entitled the “Safety Speaker Series!” Within this series, Kwema will be interviewing and learning from the different safety/security professionals interviewed. The interviews with the different safety professionals will talk about their experiences as safety professionals, as well as their points of view, etc. This week Kwema is excited to announce that Nathan Braymen of @RedBeardSafety will be sharing his experiences and advice with us!
"The number one most important lesson I have learned in safety is that learning is the goal and everything else you do should facilitate that."
Kwema: How did you start in the safety field?
Nathan: My career in safety began in the US Marine Corps where I served as a Crash Fire and Rescue specialist. During a casualty evacuation training exercise I was injured and unable to continue as a Marine and so I was given the option to take a medical honorable discharge and I took it. I went back to school and got an associate’s degree in fire science thinking I would become an arson investigator. I wanted to continue my education and get a bachelor’s and since fire science wasn't offered at my school of choice I found occupational safety as the next best option. I saw there were plenty of jobs in safety and they paid well so I went ahead and completed my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in occupational safety. I have been working as a safety manager since I graduated in 2012.
Kwema: Tell us about your safety background and what did motivate you to create isitrecordable.com
Nathan: Simply put, I just want to make life easier for my fellow safety and HR pros. Easy is good. If a safety pro is wasting time trying to sift through confusing OSHA language they are spending time that could be dedicated to other more important things. Throughout my almost 9 years in corporate safety, one of the recurring questions I received often was whether or not some incident was an OSHA recordable. When I first started my career in 2012, I usually didn't know the answer even though I thought I did. Fortunately, I would dig into the OSHA recordkeeping regulations every time I was asked a question and I found that I was often surprised at the correct answers. This is why I now like to say, it’s not about what is reasonable, it is recordkeeping. OSHA has done a pretty good job at setting parameters and addressing various scenarios through their letters of interpretation. All of the information I use to help safety and HR pros make recordkeeping determinations is available on the OSHA site. What makes isitrecordable.com valuable are the two main things: 1. The site is searchable and every scenario listed includes links to the relevant OSHA language. and 2. If someone doesn't want to spend time searching isitrecordable.com they can simply submit a question using the form and I will provide a custom response that fits their scenario exactly. I will include links to the relevant OSHA language as well. I make a promise to keep the information confidential so users with questions don't need to worry about confidentiality. I am the only one with access to the questions submitted on the site at this time.
Kwema: What have been the main challenges you have faced along your career path?
Nathan: Technology and time. I work full time, am a full-time parent, and for a while was podcasting while also maintaining isitrecordable.com. It was a lot on my plate at one time so I had to outsource some scenario writing to Whit Theobald who is an excellent safety pro who was willing to contribute to the site. Also, as the website has grown, I had to figure out how to continue adding scenarios to the site within the constraints I had. For example, the website has a limit of 100 static pages so I had to transition to using dynamic pages. Also, I had to learn how to do my graphic design and so I've been using the Canva app. All of these things aren't particularly difficult, but there are learning curves associated with learning new applications. It is good to learn new skills though and makes me feel good and gives me a mental boost to overcome challenges and to continue growing. So, I'm not complaining. :)
"I would encourage safety pros to take advantage of this liquid moment in time to try to promote sound safety principles and try to move the needle to new and improved approaches in safety."
Kwema: What have been some of the most important lessons you have learned in safety?
Nathan: The number one most important lesson I have learned in safety is that learning is the goal and everything else you do should facilitate that. The reason is, you can't fix problems you don't know about. To learn, we need to be able to communicate. It is imperative to build two-way communication pipelines with employees so they can tell you what problems they have. It is equally important to identify and aggressively eliminate any barriers to communication to the best of your ability. The greatest barrier to communication is fear. Anything that will cause fear will destroy your ability to keep employees safe because there will be problems you can't fix. After all, you simply will never find out about them. Deming said it best: where there is fear, there are incorrect figures. If you have any goals or incentives/disincentives tied to your incident rates you can be sure there will be some fear of reporting so you can start there by setting goals on valued behaviors instead of outcomes. Another great quote is: any measure that becomes a goal ceases being a good measure. Incident rates are excellent tools to let you know about how you are performing but you have destroyed that tool if you have set any goals on them.
Kwema: Due to the new COVID-19 threat, how do you consider safety concerns have changed for safety professionals?
Nathan: Safety professionals come from all different backgrounds and creeds and philosophies. Due to this fact, the safety field is best described as being multifaceted. Therefore, the COVID-19 threat has impacted each safety professional in different ways. One of the primary issues in safety is the obsession with setting goals on the incident rate, which I view as poisoning any safety program. I consider this as being very old-school and it seems to be pushed by older executives who are not interested in alternative perspectives. For a long time, I figured time would be the cure to this problem. Over time, these people in leadership roles will retire and go away, leaving room for new philosophies. However, I think COVID-19 has presented an opportunity for change. I would encourage safety pros to take advantage of this liquid moment in time to try to promote sound safety principles and try to move the needle to new and improved approaches in safety.
"The possibilities are endless with wearables."
Kwema: How do you think technology supports professionals in managing and mitigating different risks at the workplace?
Nathan: I think technology can represent a step-change in our ability to keep employees safe. There are some ideas I've had a decade ago that were great in principle, but just not practical. For example, employee observations. It isn't practical to observe all employees all the time. However, with technologies, it can now be practically done and also in a non-invasive way. Again, the goal is learning and so observations made using technology, particularly observations from just before an incident, can help us detect patterns leading up to incidents. Knowing patterns leading up to incidents can help us prevent incidents from going forward. Also, the top of the hierarchy of controls in safety is elimination. What better way to keep employees safe than by eliminating them from dangerous roles and replacing them with technology? I think this is a very positive thing. The most pressing example of this is on our highways. Thousands of deaths are caused on the highways every year due to human error. Self-driving cars are a technology that I think has the potential to significantly reduce those heartbreaking statistics and save lives. If we value human life, I think we should embrace and promote self-driving cars as well as any other technology that can save lives.
Kwema: In your view, how do you think wearable technology like Kwema devices will impact workplace safety in the next decade?
Nathan: Wearables represent another technology that has huge potential to save lives and reduce injuries. We seem to be just now arriving at the cusp of this new industry and I think it should be embraced. In the fire service, we've been using one form of wearables for a long time. They are called PASS devices and provide an alert when a firefighter stops moving for too long. These are still used because they are proven to save lives. With the technologies available today wearables can do much more than just detect when someone stops moving. It can utilize accelerometers to detect falls. It can detect dangerous exposures to sound and gases or low levels of oxygen, provide location and communication services, and on and on. When people think about wearables, a great example is the apple watch. I have one and am astounded by the capabilities that have been packed into a tiny little device I wear on my wrist. It can be used as a remote control, like a walkie-talkie, for phone calls and text messages, as a calendar, to test my blood oxygen levels and heart rate, etc. The possibilities are endless with wearables.
Kwema: Finally, what is your growth plan for your career?
Nathan: I've been working as a corporate safety manager going on 9 years now. I am considering whether or not that is a path I want to continue. I am not afraid of change and am considering all my options. I would welcome change! I have big plans for isitrecordable.com. Right now it is all about OSHA recordkeeping, which is US-centric. I am interested in finding other motivated safety pros with expertise in other countries who would like to take on recordkeeping in other countries. I have also been canvassing to seek an interested workers compensation expert to help me create a sister site called isitcompensable.com. Regardless of the direction, I go from here, I know I want to continue lifting the burden from the shoulders of my safety brothers and sisters by finding ways to offer or improve free resources like isitrecordable.com.
To get in contact with Nathan Braymen:
LinkedIn: Nathan Braymen